Kinzie Kensington and the Insufferable Genius

This post is actually the basis of my latest video, but if you’re someone who would rather read than watch, here you go!


Sherlock Holmes, Cloud Strife, Tony Stark, Dr. Manhattan, Rust Cohle, Gregory House, Franics York Morgan, The Doctor, Will Graham, Geralt of Rivia.

Robert Downey Jr.  as Tony Stark (Ironman)

All very popular fictional characters. All prodigies in their own right. And all, to put it bluntly, assholes.

The trope of the insufferable genius is a fairly common one in fiction. These characters don’t conform to social conventions, they’re misanthropic, and are often outright insulting to the people around them. They’re also all gifted in some manner. Whether it’s brilliant powers of deduction, supernatural ability, or amazing physical prowess, something makes these characters special and better than others. This lets them get away with being arrogant jerks. They don’t get kicked to the curb by their fictional counterparts, and the audience tends to outright adore them.

Also, in case it wasn’t obvious, they’re all men. (Also, white and straight but that’s a whole other discussion).

Insufferable genius is not a role that women get to play very often. While being antisocial and unconforming is often seen as charmingly roguish for men, it’s not something women can get away with so easily. Female characters can be brilliant or powerful but can’t be too arrogant about it or be too unfriendly lest they get labelled an unlikable bitch.

Gillian Anderson in The Fall

Gillian Anderson’s character in The Fall is a female character who comes close to fulfilling this trope. She’s a brilliant detective who’s not afraid to break a few rules or call out others on their bullshit. While she’s still generally respected, she does get more flack for it than a male would, as she’s always quick to point out. Kara Thrace is another character who could fall into the Insufferable Genius category. She’s a brilliant pilot who doesn’t like to play by the rules and doesn’t care what people think of her. However, to be fair Starbuck was originally written as a man. These aren’t the characters I want to talk about right now.

Kinzie Kensington from Saints Row 4

The character I do want to talk about is from a video game series. Saint’s Row. It might be hard to imagine a great, stereotype-breaking female character coming from a game series that started as a Grand Theft Auto knockoff, but hear me out. It’s true that Saint’s Row scores a solid “needs improvement” when it comes to background female characters, but with major female characters, they do a surprisingly good job. First, the game features enough female characters that giving them some negative traits doesn’t have the side effect of painting all females with the same brush. One of these characters is the brilliant hacker, Kinzie Kensington.

Kinzie’s a hacking genius who knows more than most people and isn’t afraid to say so. She’s a self-confessed misanthrope who doesn’t go out of her way to endear herself to people. She doesn’t care that people don’t understand her technical jargon, just that the job gets done.

Now, Kinzie isn’t the main protagonist, you could argue that she was in Gat out of Hell, but honestly that was a bit phoned in. However, she does play a major part in both Saints Row 3 and 4. In Saints Row 4 she’s the voice you’re always hearing, leading you through the story, telling you what to do every step of the way because the protagonist doesn’t really know what she’s doing.

I really like Kinzie because she’s smart and she doesn’t care what other people think. She just wants to do what she needs to do, she’s not particularly concerned with being nice. She does fit the Insufferable Genius role, which really, women don’t get to play too often. So I just wanted to give a little bit of love to Kinzie Kensington, along with Volition for developing her.

If you’ve got any feedback, or suggestions for future videos, I’d love to hear them.

4 responses to “Kinzie Kensington and the Insufferable Genius

  1. I’m not a video person, but watching yours because its nice to put a human face/voice to the name =)

    I haven’t played Saint’s Row but soon as you mentioned the female hacker I immediately thought of Lisbeth Salander (Girl with the Dragon Tatoo) – of which, I loved the Swedish version of that movie. I didn’t bother with the Americanized version.

    Is the quirky off-beat hacker becoming a comfortable place to put the female insufferable genius ? Is it because many gamer-dudes think the attractive, female hacking type is “their kind of girl”? Curious how that plays out in different mediums.

    Great post =) Enjoyed both versions =)
    Isey recently posted..Darkest Dungeon EP6 – We Kill a Boss

    • It could be that off-beat hacker is a more comfortable place for women than some other roles. I’m trying to find female analogues for a number of the male characters I mentioned. I don’t really think there is one for the Sherlock/House character. I mentioned Stella Gibson from The Fall, but though she’s a very good detective, she’s not really the same level of “genius” as Sherlock Holmes. Similarly, I don’t know if there are any female characters comparable to Tony Stark, especially in regards to his “player” status. Promiscuous women are looked at in an entirely different (and much more negative) light than promiscuous men.

      I think you make a good point that the female characters who can fall into this characterization are often quirky or a bit awkward, as opposed to really arrogant like many male characters get to be.

  2. Really like this series of encouraging developers with examples of good character work!

    I had not even thought about the Insufferable Genius role being pretty much exclusively male until you pointed it out, so thank you.

    My only other comment is…about the intro/outro music. I don’t know if you intended it to be that way, but it really really feels like the epitome of “bow-chika-wow-wow”…>.>
    Dahakha recently posted..Isometric MMOs: Does Perspective Matter?

    • Thanks Dahakha! I like to be able to applaud the good examples, and not just focus on all the bad.

      Your comment about the intro music made me laugh. I went looking on free music sites and almost everything was 8-bit or EDM sounding, which isn’t really me. This was the only one I found that felt a bit more rock and roll.